When the Material and the Spiritual Support Each Other

At the end of his life, Moses blesses the tribes individually, except Zebulun and Issachar.  He blesses them together, one brother for “going out” and the other for “being in his tents.” Why?

While the tribe of Zebulun apparently had success with mercantile and maritime ventures, and Issachar, with agriculture, many sages look in the text for a deeper answer.

They taught that Zebulun did indeed go out into the world of commercial enterprise but that Issachar stayed in tents, in order to study and teach Torah, God’s word. One earned material strength by going out. The other drew spiritual strength from the interior.

Moses recognized the wisdom in both, especially in their being linked, in their support of each other. And that, I think, is the main lesson for us.

These brothers understood and benefited from the balance that comes from devoting the material to support the spiritual/ethical and the spiritual/ethical to support the material. In our communities and indeed in our own individual lives, there should be mutual cooperation between “Zebulun” and “Issachar.”

Moses goes on to say in the very next verse that these two tribes will call the people to the mountain for sacrifices of righteousness for the abundance of sea and from sand.

This has been interpreted many ways. I like the idea that the way of life characterized by the mutual support of these two tribes will help draw the peoples who stream to the mountain of the Lord’s house, to learn of His ways and walk in His paths.  (Micah 4:1-2)

Such wondrous things are possible for us, too, when the material and spiritual support each other.


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